Stems of high grade tea is called karigane 雁音. By roasting these stems in an iron pot, it becomes Karigane Houjicha. This particular product uses gyokuro tea stems from Uji, Kyoto.
How is this karigane houjicha different from regular houjicha? The answer is in the strength of fire. Usually, houjicha is roasted over an extremely low heat. In this way, the tea will not be burnt but roasted to the core of the teas. However, the flavor of the tea is lost through this process, leaving behind only the aroma.
This karigane houjicha is roasted in an iron pot over strong heat. Only the surface of the stems are roasted, retaining the flavor of the tea itself, because the inner part of the stem is not roasted. Both the strong aroma and taste of tea can be enjoyed.
The water color is a bit cloudy compared to regular houjicha with clear water color, but this cloudy water color is the flavor of tea.
Today, the iron pot roasting is very rare and so only those tea shops that are particular about houjicha come visit the factory. Yamane-en's Shiobara-san wanted to experience this iron pot roasting so visited this factory in Uji, Kyoto to learn the technique!!
WHAT IS 'SUGABOW'?? That was a question we had for Shiobara-san. It's a little pun...one of the most famous type of kukicha in Japan is Kagabou from Ishikawa Prefecture. Since, Yamane-en is based in Sugamo, Tokyo, Kagabou becomes 'Sugabow'... v(^_^;)